Have you noticed a significant increase in the traffic to your site? Specifically, the referral traffic?
I had noticed increases across many of our clients’ sites, and even our own, over the last few months. At first, it was exciting – referral traffic is often visits earned through links, which are an important ranking factor for the search engines.
A bit of analysis rained on my parade, however. Most of the referrals I’ve seen are coming from websites like free-share-buttons.com and best-seo-offer.com. Clearly, the visits are not legitimate.
The problem is a new form of spam. Crafty webmasters are sending Google false information, telling Analytics that they’ve visited sites that are selected at random. The idea is that webmasters like myself might see the strange referrals and visit the sites to investigate, making themselves vulnerable to viruses and malware.
You may also be seeing visits listed in Google Analytics to pages that don’t exist on your site. This is a related issue – the spammy webmasters don’t know what pages actually exist on the websites they’re targeting, so they make up some post-domain URL to tell Google they visited.
It’s frustrating and pointless, like all spam. Fortunately, there’s a pretty simple solution to fix it.
At the top of any Google Analytics report, you’ll see a box with a blue circle marked “All Sessions”. Next to it, there’s another box that says “Choose segment from list.”
These are called custom segments and they allow you to add real-time filters to the data you see in your Google Analytics reports.
Click on “All Sessions” and then click the red “New Segment” button. From here, you can build a new custom segment to remove spam referrals from your reports.
In the first section, you’ll want to choose “Sessions” and “Exclude”. Then choose “Acquisition > Source” from the first dropdown menu, “matches regex” from the second, and enter the URL of one of the spammy referrers, like “free-share-buttons.com”.
This will exclude all sessions that were referred by the URL.
On the right side of that line you’ve just created, click “Or” and Analytics will create another row. Keep adding them, inserting a different spammy referrer URL into the field, until you’ve added all the referrers you believe to be spam.
Activate your new custom segment, remove “All Sessions”, and you’re done! All your reports will now show data without those spammy referral sessions.
To eliminate the spam URLs from your landing page and visited pages data, create another filter. This one will Include Sessions with a Hostname that Matches Regex for just your domain name, so “fivefifty.com|www.fivefifty.com”, for example.
This custom segment will only show visits to pages that actually exist on your site. Since the spam referrers don’t know the domain names of the sites they’re targeting, since they’re doing it at random, their spammy pageviews won’t have your actual URLs and therefore they won’t show up with this custom segment activated.
If you have any questions about the process, leave a comment and I’ll get back to you ASAP!